THIS WEEKEND IN CHICAGO – Springtime Fun Returns to Winter!

It may be winter, but here in Chicago we’ll be taking in some springtime fun this weekend as we look forward to the start of another baseball season!

Come join the Chicago Cubs for a weekend of springtime excitement at their 35th annual Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Grand Chicago (301 E. North Water St.) on the Near North Side.  The event kicks off with the Opening Ceremony on Friday at 6 p.m. and concludes with the Off the Mound with Ryan Dempster show featuring baseball tales, lively interviews, and comedy sketches. Saturday brings the return of popular reoccurring sessions as well as autograph signings, player meet and greets, interactive exhibits, new fan experiences, special panels with Cubs players, alumni, coaches, Cubs Bingo, and much more! Sunday’s program offers additional autograph sessions and two panels: Sunday Stories and Down on the Farm.  There are also several new activities for fans to enjoy throughout the weekend (details can be found at the link above)!  And with the former Cubs catcher David Ross installed as the team’s new manager, there will be plenty to talk about!!  Play ball!!!

The weather is cold and you want to be comfy, right?  What better way than snuggling up in your onesie at this year’s Onesie Bar Crawl this Saturday (4 p.m.-12 a.m.)? To begin the crawl, you’ll need to check in at Merkle’s Bar & Grill (3516 N. Clark St.) in the Wrigleyville neighborhood between 4 p.m.-6 p.m. to receive your lanyard and event badge.  This crawl is a “Make It Your Own Adventure Crawl,” which means there’s no set agenda.  Crawlers will be provided with an exclusive “access to the crawl” map with participating bars.  Most crawl deals and specials end at 10 p.m.; however, the night won’t be over yet!  Head on over to the HVAC Pub (3530 N. Clark St.) for the After Party from 10 p.m.-12 a.m.  Don’t forget, there’s a $500 Costume Contest too (check link above for details)!  It’s the comfiest party of the year!!

Doors open at 10 a.m. for the Kids’ Cooking Class at Maggiano’s Little Italy (516 N. Clark St.) in the River North neighborhood this Saturday.  Children ages 5-12 are welcome and will begin their hands-on cooking demonstration at 10:30 a.m. with Maggiano’s Chef.  Each child will receive their own chef hat that they can customize, an apron, and a recipe card.  Adults must be present during entire event.  Your paid ticket includes a lunch buffet (tax and gratuity included)!  So let’s get cooking and make some stuffed rolls!!  Mangia!!!

Celebrate Chinese culture and the tradition of dumpling making at the 16th annual Chinese New Year Dumpling Making Dinner this Saturday (3:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m.) at the Hing Kee Restaurant (2140 S. Archer Ave.) in Chinatown.  As always, there will be dumpling making, authentic Chinese cuisine, storytelling, lots of surprises, and fun!  This is one of the year’s most anticipated events celebrating the Chinese New Year- Year of the Rat- here in Chicago!!

Nothing Like a Little Spring in the Dead of Winter!

CHICAGO NEIGHBORHOOD NEWS: Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Bucktown and Wicker Park, Edgewater, Chicago Loop, Oak Park

Lakeview: Need a fun MLK day activity for the kiddos? Get to Tuco and Blondie for Kids Movie Night and a showing of Toy Story 3! This Monday, January 20 at 5:30 pm, your kiddos will enjoy a buffet, popcorn, and a sweet treat. Adult tickets include a Classic Margarita, popcorn, and chips and salsa. Tickets are just $8.84 and can be purchased here.

Lincoln Park: Get ready to party down this winter with the Polar Bear Party at Kirkwood. On January 25 from 11 am to 10 pm, there will be $2 Corona and Corona Light cans, $3 Guinness cans, and a $20 shot ski. There will also be raffles, firepits, prizes, and much more! Find more information here.

Bucktown and Wicker Park: Been itching to show off your singing skills? Or try out your new stand-up routine? Mac’s Wood Grilled hosts an Open Mic Night every Tuesday night. Stand-up, original acoustic music, and sketch comedy are all welcome. Sign-up begins at 9:30 pm and the show begins at 10 pm. Each set should be no more than 5 minutes. There is no cover and there are drink specials! Find more information here.

Edgewater: Ready to show off your Disney knowledge? Disney Movie Trivia at Bareburger is happening this Sunday, January 19 at 4 pm. Questions will focus on Disney’s classic animated films, all the way from 1937’s Snow White to Toy Story 4. The easiest way to reserve tickets is to choose a team captain and have them reserve tickets for all participating team members. You can also play by yourself and reserve single tickets! Reserve your tickets here and get ready for a night of Disney fun!

Chicago Loop: The Chicago Athletic Club is hosting a Wellbeing Workshop: Inner Workout on Saturday January 25 at 10 am. This workshop transcends the trend of self-care and teaches you skills you can build on. Inner Workout translates ancient philosophies into a modern self-care practice. You’ll engage in 60 minutes of gentle movement, breathwork, meditation, and journaling led by the founder of Inner Workout, Taylor Morrison. The class is open to all and no prior experience is necessary. Bring a journal and yoga mat. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased here.

Oak Park: Every Thursday night, Hamburger Mary’s becomes the Oak Park Comedy Club! Chicago’s top improv and comedy acts take over; as well as national touring comedians who have been featured on Comedy Central, HBO, and The Laugh Factory. The night begins at 8 pm! Make sure you come hungry- Mary’s has the best burgers, as well as delicious cocktails and fresh brewed beer from Oak Park Brewing Company, conveniently located next door. Make your reservations here, now!


Restaurant Review: Chicago Restaurant Week Part 2

Welcome to part two of Chicago Restaurant Week! This week- it’s all about the restaurants.

Looking for lunch? The following restaurants have you covered:

Bar Takito: Start with your choice of appetizer. Choose from Pineapple Guacamole: goat cheese, grilled pineapple, basil, red onion, sundried tomato; or Esquites: roasted corn, morita emulsion, crispy corn, aleppo pepper, queso fresco, and cilantro. Your second course is tacos! You can choose two of any of the following: Mescal Braised Beef Barbacoa, Queso Caribe, Crispy Fish, or Cochinita Pibil. Finally, you can also choose a dessert: Passion Fruit Creme Brulee or Chocolate Tamal. All of this for just $24? What a steal! 

Blue Door Farm Stand: At this charming farm to table restaurant, you’ll begin with either a cup of soup (lentil or tomato), a fruit plate (served with local honey), or Wisconsin cheese curds (served with pickled chilis and buttermilk ranch). The entrees are mouthwatering! The Brussels and Kale Salad is topped with parmesan cheese, toasted almonds, bacon, and a maple tahini dressing. Or try the Ava Sandwich with Coleslaw: baby spinach, avocado, bacon, green tomato relish, swiss, and havarti. The Veggie Burger looks delicious as well! It’s served with mango chutney, crushed avocado, and arugula. For dessert, it’s your choice of a carrot cake muffin, blueberry coffee cake muffin, or chocolate cake. 

Enso Sushi And Bar: They’re serving up a 4 course prix-fixe for just $24! Your meal begins with Miso Soup (either spicy or mild). Then choose from a Lumpia Spring Roll (minced tiger shrimp and white meat chicken, oyster sauce, scallions, carrots, and dipping sauces), a Seaweed Salad with lemon vinaigrette, or Shrimp Sumai- shrimp dumplings with a soy dipping sauce. The entrees begin with Chicken Yaki Soba: stir-fried egg noodles in savory fruit and soy sauce, asparagus, carrots, onions, scallions, and white meat chicken. The Mad House Maki comes in a soy paper wrap, stuffed with shrimp tempura, avocado, tuna, salmon, unagi sauce, spicy mayo, tempura bits, and wasabi tobiko. Finally, you can enjoy the Soul of Fire Maki: albacore, smoked salmon, apple, sriracha, chili oil, red tuna, shishito pepper, and unagi sauce. The dessert choices are Mochi Ice Cream: green tea or strawberry. 

Craving a nice dinner out? The following will do the trick!

lowcountry: Start your meal off with your choice of Seafood Gumbo or pickled veggies. For the main course, it’s a good old fashioned seafood boil. Your meal includes 1/2 pound of shrimp, 1/2 pound of snow crab, three pieces of corn, three pieces of potato, one cup of green beans, and your choice of sauce (garlic, lemon pepper, cajun, or everythang) and spice level. Your meal also comes with two pieces of cornbread. For dessert, choose from beignets or deep fried Oreos.

Mon Ami Gabi: At this charming French restaurant, your meal will begin with a warm baguette, served with classic carrot rapé and an honey herb vinaigrette. Then choose from three different wines to have a glass with your meal. Tantalize your tastebuds in your first course with Onion Soup Au Gratin, Spicy Salmon Tartare, Wild Escargots de Bourgogne, or a Caesar Salad. The entrees include Signature Prime Steak Frites, Classic Skate Wing, Roast Salmon (served with butternut squash seed oil, creamed spinach, calabrian chili, and kale), and Cavatelli Pasta (wild mushrooms, celery root, truffle butter, lemon, and pepato cheese). Dessert is a trio of Chocolate Mousse, Profiterole, and Vanilla Creme Brulee. 

For more mouthwatering menus and delectable deals, check out the full list of participating restaurants here.


Kathy’s Home & Garden Tips – Caring for Indoor Plants in Winter

We sometimes forget that our indoor plants might need special attention during the winter months. With a little more care, they can come through the season healthy and thriving. Plants improve our feeling of wellbeing. They also increase humidity, reduce CO2 levels, and some airborne pollutants.

First, remember that your house is much drier in the winter. This doesn’t automatically mean you need to water more. Make sure the soil is completely dry before watering and water until the bottom saucer has a ½ inch of water or so. Wait 15 minutes, then empty any water not absorbed. Water more thoroughly- not more often.  High humidity plants can benefit from placing a shallow dish with small pebbles under the plant. Fill with water to just the top of the pebbles. As the water evaporates, it will provide humidity for days. Weekly spraying with water will help greatly too.

The light coming into the house can vary greatly during winter. Some windows that have plenty of light in summer may have much less in winter. Try to place your plants near an east (or better yet southeast) facing window to capture as much light as possible early in the day. You may have to relocate all your plants to this area. Make sure the window is clean! Dirty windows filter light. Dust plant leaves to ensure they absorb as much light as possible. Do be careful to keep tropical plants at a certain distance from the window. Temperatures can be 10 or more degrees lower close to the window. Some tropical plants can benefit from a growing light if the winter light in your house is limited. 

Now is a good time to prune and repot- woody or vine plants especially. Even with extra care, some plants go somewhat dormant during winter. Remember to go up no more than two sizes when repotting. Keep an eye out for pests like spider mites and mealy bugs- they do bug us in winter too! Use a good insecticidal soap to keep them in control.

We can keep our indoor plants healthy and thriving all winter with a little extra care. When spring comes, they will be ready to take off!


How Your Daily Drive Time Can Factor Into Your Mortgage

It’s easy to overlook some of the things that can affect your budget and purchasing power when you’re considering a home, and one of the biggest factors that buyers overlook is the cost of their daily commute.

We’ve all heard that real estate is all about “location, location, location,” and properties in more desirable locations typically come with a higher price tag than similar properties that aren’t in a hot neighborhood.

Yet the overall cost of living for choosing one location over another might be negligible when you factor in the commuting costs that are required—gas, vehicle maintenance, insurance—if you purchase a home that is significantly further from your workplace. If your mortgage is $200 less per month, but you’re spending an extra $200 in commuting costs, are you really saving money?

Commuting costs aren’t just about the disposable income left in your bank account, either. It can even affect how much money you can borrow. If you’re a long-distance commuter, a loan officer may factor your travel costs into your debt-to-income ratio.

Aside from how commuting affects your purchasing power or disposable income, there’s also the question of how it affects your quality of life—no one wants to spend hours a week just getting to and from work.

The real estate market varies greatly from location to location, so the best way to get a complete picture of your purchasing power—and all the factors that go into your home budget—is to speak to a trusted real estate professional.

THIS WEEKEND IN CHICAGO – Getting Through Another Winter!

Now that the holidays are officially over, it’s time to plan things to look forward to that will get us through another winter here in Chicago!  Although it’s been a mild one so far!!

Begin planning your spring and summer outdoor festivities at the 90th annual Chicago Boat, RV & Sail Show this Saturday (10 a.m.-8 p.m.) and Sunday (10 a.m.-5 p.m.) at McCormick Place South (2301 S. Lake Shore Dr.) in the South Loop.  Not only will this show feature over 600 boats, 100 RVs, and luxurious 50+ foot yachts for your boarding pleasure; but also sailing seminars, free sailing lessons at the Chicago Sailing Sail Simulator, and remote-control sailboat racing!  Plus visitors can get in a vacation state of mind at the Corona Find Your Beach Bar & Cantina or check out the latest technology and outdoor accessories for this year.  For the kids, there’s the Huck Finn Trout Pond (12 and under), the Chicago Maritime Arts Center Build-A-Boat, and so much more! There’s always something for everyone at this show!!

If you like the thrills of winter but not the chill, then the 19th annual Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier’s Festival Hall (600 E. Grand Ave.) in the Streeterville neighborhood is for you.  Packed with family fun, this winter fest features 170,000 square feet of carnival rides, an Alpine slide, an Arctic express train ride, the Arctic plunge, a cliff hanger, ice peaks climbing walls, a polar extreme, the winter rules mini golf, the Xfinity ice skating rink, and so much more.  If you haven’t experienced Chicago’s biggest and best indoor winter playground yet, this is your last opportunity to do so until the next winter season!  Then you’ll have to go outdoors for the chills!!

One of the most anticipated winter craft beer events of the year takes up residence this weekend at Navy Pier’s Aon Ballroom with the Chicago Ale Fest – Winter Edition.  This fest features over 100 American craft beers, Chicago’s favorite food trucks, games & activities, yoga, and a DJ spinning all your favorites!  It’s a great place to beat the winter blues!!

As for getting the kids out this weekend, perhaps they’ll enjoy Trolls Live! at the Chicago Theatre (175 N. State St.) in The Loop.  Get ready for a hair-raising adventure when Poppy, Branch, and their friends come to life onstage for their first ever live tour!  It’s a toe-tapping, Trolls-tastic show, jam-packed with all the epic music, glitter, humor, and happiness only the Trolls can create!!  Plan to arrive one hour before the start time to get through security and be in your seats before the show begins.

Are you a fan of the tyrannosaurus, the triceratops, the diplodocus, or the velociraptor?  This weekend you’ll be able to meet them at Dinosaur Adventure at Rosemont’s Donald E. Stephens Convention Center (5555 N. River Rd.).  This all new, one-of-a-kind exhibit features realistic, life-sized dinosaurs that come alive with life-like movement and roars!  Children of all ages (and I’m sure some adults!) will enjoy a variety of activities such as fossil crafting, fossil digs, fossil casting, mining, dinosaur study, Jurassic jeeps, themed obstacle courses, riding your favorite dinosaur, and more.  Plus live entertainment will be provided by a walking dinosaur show and a baby dinosaur meet and greet!!  WOW!!!

Keep Those Winter Blues Away!  I Know You Can!!

CHICAGO NEIGHBORHOOD NEWS: Lincoln Park, Bucktown and Wicker Park, Lakeview, River North, Lincoln Square, Evanston

Lincoln Park: The DePaul Art Museum features a Gallery Conversation and Book Signing with artist Julia Fish. On January 29 from 6 to 7:30 pm, this event is free and open to anyone. Julia Fish guest curated a selection of works on paper drawn largely from DePaul Art Museum’s collection. Featuring architectural plans, views, and elevation studies alongside annotated musical scores and graphic analyses, the exhibit is called Architectural Annotations. Find more information here.

Bucktown and Wicker Park: Get ready for Beer Olympics 2020! Hosted by Fatpour Tap Works, the event is Saturday, January 18 at 1 pm. You’ll watch all the NFL playoff action while competing in feats of strength and agility! Teams of 4 can register for $50. The ticket includes beer for the games and a $10 donation. There will be single person, 2-person, and 4-person events to compete in. Scoring is points based and extra points will be awarded for the best team costume and best team name! Find more information and register your team here!

Lakeview: Want something a little different this Valentine’s Day? You’ve got to check out the Southport Wine & Chocolate Stroll! On Thursday, February 13 from 6 to 9 pm, you’ll taste over 20 different wines paired with chocolates. The event is ticketed and features two routes, wine samples, chocolate treats, a souvenir tasting glass, and an event guide. You’ll also enjoy special deals at participating businesses and will have a chance to enter the event raffle. Tickets are $30 in advance; $30 the day of. Find more information here!

River North: Need a way to warm up? Check out the Chicago Whiskey Festival- A River North Whiskey Tasting! Held on Saturday, February 1 at Old Crow Smokehouse in River North, you’ll taste whiskies, bourbons, and scotches from all over the world. General admission tickets include 3 hours of bourbon, scotch, and whiskey tastings. VIP tickets include an additional hour of tastings, as well as one-on-one time with distillers. The VIP session is from 12 to 4 pm and the GA session is from 1 to 4 pm. Find more information here!

Lincoln Square: It’s time for Winter Brew 2020! Each winter, the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce hosts Winter Brew! On Saturday January 25, local Chicago breweries and cideries are taking over DANK Haus German American Cultural Center. Each brewery will showcase at least two craft beers, with limited releases being offered too. There are two sessions: 1 to 4:30 pm and 6:30 to 10 pm. Find more information here!

Evanston: Porchlight Music Theatre presents “New Faces Sing Broadway Now!” On Monday, February 24 at 7:30 pm at Evanston SPACE you’ll see up and coming Chicago talent sing Broadway tunes from shows that have premiered in the last year. The show features songs from Tootsie, Hadestown, Moulin Rouge! The Musical, and more. It’s an exciting multimedia presentation, with photos and films of the era, trivia games with prizes, sing-alongs, and more. A celebrity host introduces you to the next generation of Chicago music theatre artists while serving as a guide to the songs, stories, and stars of the past season on Broadway. Find more information here!


Restaurant Review – Chicago Restaurant Week

Chicago Restaurant Week is almost here! If you’re a foodie, then you’ve probably had it on your calendar for months. Not a foodie? Never heard of Restaurant Week? Don’t you worry- I’ve got your back! For the next two weeks, we will be exploring this incredible, food-centric, mouthwatering event. 

Chicago Restaurant Week is from January 24 through February 9 and is a 17-day celebration of our city’s award winning culinary scene. This is its 13th year bringing together hundreds of the city’s top restaurants. It’s the largest restaurant week in the nation! During this amazing time, diners can enjoy special prix fixe menus at over 400 restaurants throughout Chicago and the nearby suburbs. The multi-course meals are $24 for brunch or lunch and either $36 or $48 for dinner. The price does exclude beverages, tax, and gratuity. Let’s check out some of the participating restaurants and their offerings!

Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba: This Chicago favorite is offering both brunch and dinner. Brunch includes a glass of red sangria, a mimosa, or one trip to the Bloody Mary bar. Diners can then choose two brunch tapas and one dessert tapas. Sausage Fried Paella Rice (with a poached egg), Citrus French Toast (with goat cheese butter, honey, and berries), Chocolate Truffle Cake, and more are on the menu. Dinner includes one glass of red or white sangria. Then you can choose any Pinxtos from the regular menu, choose options from a First and Second Course list, and choose a dessert tapas. Offerings include Roasted Bacon Wrapped Dates, Baked Goat Cheese, Rioja-Braised Short Ribs, Moroccan Chickpea Stew, and more. 

Duck Duck Goat: Serving up both brunch and dinner, Duck Duck Goat is churning out sizzling hot, family style Chinese dishes this Restaurant Week. The brunch prix fixe includes Beef Short Rib & Bone Marrow Potstickers, Wood-Fired Duck Hearts served with sesame horseradish aioli, Bacon & Egg Moo Shu, and more. They also have a vegetarian brunch menu. Dinner options include Goat & Duck Spring Rolls, Grilled Beef & Broccoli, Xi’An Goat Slap Noodles, and more. 

Lena Brava: This Rick Bayless favorite is serving brunch and dinner. Brunch includes three courses. The first includes three dishes, all served family style: a “Morning-After” seafood cocktail, Avocado Tostada, and Fresh Baked Concha. Then you can choose one dish each from a Second and Third Course. Traditional favorites like Huevos Rancheros, Chilaquiles, and Enchiladas are on the menu. Dinner is four courses, with an optional $22 wine pairing. I had my eye on the Ceviche Maki Roll: sashimi grade yellowfin tuna, soy infused with lime & Serrano chile, spicy herb mayo, avocado, cucumber toasted sesame seed and crispy onion. Also featured is the Braised Short Rib, served with a cauliflower mash and spicy Oaxacan pasilla salsa. 

Monteverde: Monteverde is serving dinner, with an optional $18 wine pairing. It’s a 4 course family style menu, with the choice of 1 item from each course per person. Start your meal off with Marinated Mozzarella or ‘Nduja Arancini. Then choose from Oma’s Green Mountain Salad: little gem lettuce, avocado, crunchy vegetables; or Polenta Gratinata: gorgonzola fonduta, Medjool dates, and toasted walnuts. Choose Tortelloni di Zucca: roasted winter squash, apple, sage, pumpkin seeds; Lillian’s Stuffed Cabbage: porcini bolognese, crispy polenta, brown butter; or Roasted Sea Scallop: Umbrian lentils, crispy Mangalitsa pork belly, and pickled fresno. Finally, top your meal off with either Chocolate Bundino or Sorbet & Forgotten Cookies. 

Want more information about Restaurant Week? Find it here!  Then look forward to next week’s article, where we’ll feature more delicious restaurants! 


Kathy’s Home & Garden Tips – Save Some Heat in the House

The weather around Chicago this year has been a little crazy. There wasn’t much cold weather till around Thanksgiving when we had our first snow. Then it was unseasonably warm through Christmas with some 60-degree days! Now in January, the cold seems to be back. Some of us were lulled into a feeling that we have time to winterize! There is still time to save both heat and money in your home.

Check your doors; especially in older homes. Are there gaps at the top and bottom? Install a sweep at the bottom of the door and replace the threshold. Use felt or foam strips on the inside of the door frame. 

Reverse your ceiling fan to bring warm air down from the ceiling. Close drapes at night and on cloudy days. Then open them on sunny ones. Install a programmable thermostat. If you don’t want to replace your old one, don’t adjust the temperature frequently. Just adjust twice a day: down at night and up in the morning.

Insulation can be easier than you think. Check for hints on attic insulation or Google it. Cold weather areas need R49 while warmer ones can get away with R38. Caulk or foam insulation can seal cracks all over from windows, chimneys, and vents to areas in the basement. In basements, seal around electric and plumbing. Seal around the foundation at the top of basement walls where they meet the wood. 

Insulate exposed pipes in the house; especially those in basements, under sinks, and along exterior walls. Use precut foam sleeves and seal hot water pipes to reserve heat. 

Service the furnace regularly. Change the filter monthly or even every three weeks;  especially if you have pets. Think about budgeting for a new one if yours is more than 20 years old. New models are so much more efficient. Seal visible furnace vents with metal tape, not duct tape. Seal seams and connections where ducts and registers meet floors, walls, and ceilings. Keep the damper closed when fireplaces are not in use.  


Wallpaper: Don’t Call It A Comeback!

Guess who’s back, back again? Wallpaper has risen to the top of homeowners’ favorite ways to spice up a room again and its easy to see why.


With a variety of colors, patterns, and styles on the market, it’s nearly impossible for you to not find one that matches exactly what you’re looking for. The texture and finish options are endless as well, ranging from silk to leather to suede to mother of pearl. Some of the wallpaper trends we are loving right now include watercolor-inspired designs that transform any room into an artistic haven and nature-forward designs that help bring the outdoors in.

Ease of Use

One of the biggest benefits of wallpaper is it is a fantastic DIY project for you and your spouse, family, or friend. Not only does it go on easily, but it is simple to remove and replace when you are ready to revamp the look of the room. Additionally, this is a great option if you’re a renting a home or apartment. Generally, landlords prefer you do not paint during your rental period, so this easy-to-remove option is a great alternative.


Most wallpaper costs on average $3 to $8 per square foot, depending on the brand and the material. Although the upfront cost of wallpapering a room can be a little more than the cost to paint, the value it offers is substantial. Wallpaper can last anywhere from 15 to 25 years, making it an incredibly cost-effective décor solution in the long run, while a painted wall requires more upkeep and touch ups and generally you will need to repaint every 5 to 10 years or so.